Be careful when you buy online! BBB offers advice for smart online shopping

ID-100104045Online shopping, from your computer or portable device, is pretty convenient. It’s a good way to avoid standing in line and fighting through crowds.  However, shopping with online retailers also carries certain risks.

Last year, Better Business Bureau received over 2,000 complaints against online retailers nationally. Complaints cover a wide range of issues–including products that didn’t match the description, delivery issues and problems receiving a refund.

While many online shopping sites are legitimate, there are crooked online retailers out there trying to scam shoppers. These con artists set up fake or fraudulent sites to get hold of personal information or steal your money. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin reminds shoppers it’s important to research a business before making any purchase online.

When shopping online, BBB offers this advice:             

  • Check for basic information. If you’re interested in trying a new online merchant who you’re not familiar with, be sure and locate the company’s physical location (address and phone number). If this information is not listed on their website, contact them directly to find out the information first before purchasing anything.
  • Keep personal information safe.Check the URL link to make sure it starts with “https://” before entering financial information. The ‘s’ means it is a secure site. Check the privacy policy to see how the business is using the information they have requested. Never email any personal information such as credit card and banking numbers or social security numbers.
  • Read and compare. When buying a product, read the whole description including the fine print. It is important to understand the details of the product being purchased so there are no surprises when it’s delivered. Also, be wary if products listed are significantly lower than typical retail prices. This may be an indication of a fraudulent site.
  • Check the return policy. Read the return policy to see if the business allows a full refund if the customer is not happy with the product. Review the policy to see who pays for the cost of shipping and handling for the return.  
  • Choose the correct payment method. Always pay with a credit card when shopping online. A purchase with a credit card is protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA). This allows customers to briefly hold payment while a problem is reviewed and resolved. This act also protects customers in the event that credit card information is stolen and used without their permission.
  • Document your purchase. Make sure to print the receipts and product information of any online purchases to prevent incorrect charges. Print all important documents, including shipping information, receipts, customer service information and the return policy. This will come in handy if you need to dispute any problems or product issues.

If you experience issues or believe you have been ripped off by an online retailer:

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